Private Investor: In search of a growth engine? Just Google it

One of the joys of the new technologies and the liberalisation of retail financial markets is that buying stocks in faraway places is easier – and cheaper – than ever.

For not very much more than you pay to transact business on a company with its primary listing in London, you can now explore the further reaches of equity investment in the United States and Europe.

Take a look at a few on-line brokers' websites to see what I mean. Such are the low fees involved (even less if you take advantage of any of the introductory offers) that the world, so far as investment is concerned, is your oyster.

A little over 20 years ago, before the "Big Bang" reforms in the City and then the internet, buying shares on one of the New York exchanges would have required an investment of some tens of thousands to make it worthwhile – plus a brokerage account at one of the few given a licence to undertake such business. Now the stake is far lower, and you need never speak to a broker.

Symbolically, then, you could follow my lead and buy some shares in chronically undervalued American stocks. Now, the Fed's rate cuts have ensured that they're not quite as cheap as they were, but the US dollar is still a structurally weak currency. Structurally – but not permanently.

I say you can "symbolically" follow the lead, because the US shares that I think are worth picking up are those in Google.

I noticed, as you may have, the headlines this week about Google bursting through the $600 per share mark. In one sense that's nothing to get too excited about, because American stocks are usually "heavy" – that is, that per share they come in at a substantial price tag – but it was an interesting moment.

I mention Google also because I can't see that there is another stock around that combines the great qualities of ubiquity and profitability. Google is used – I don't know – millions of times per second, probably.

By rights, it shouldn't be this way. The internet is a medium where barriers to entry are relatively low – a nightmare for investors.

Once, giant chemical concerns and auto giants could comfort themselves with the notion that at least one competitive edge they could command was their sheer size. Few, if any, new entrants could hope to match the expense of their capital equipment; their distribution networks were similarly hard to replicate from scratch; and the power of the brands could insulate them from interlopers. But all you need to get on the web is a good idea, some software and an internet service provider – no?

So Google "ought" to be one of hundreds of search engines all vying for your attention and exploring new business avenues in a teeming ecology of web enterprise. Yet it isn't. It's just sitting there as the default search engine for almost everyone. Like Hoover, it has become a generic. Maybe that's because the web seems inclined to award its best players a monopoly.

The question, of course, is how long that can last, and I'm afraid I can't offer you anything more than a hunch on that, which is a positive one. My guess is that, one day, someone will indeed come along and usurp Google, just as it usurped others in its time. Yet, for the moment, there doesn't seem to be any sign of that, and people seem inclined to stick with it.

That's immensely powerful, because Google also seems to have cracked the problem of making money on the web, with its carefully and subtly segregated commercial and non-commercial hit lists.

I haven't much idea, to be honest, about the various experiments Google is conducting in other areas. But the fundamental core search-engine business seems to be more soundly based than ever.

When you have a brand this strong in a medium so competitive, then you can only conclude that the company's doing something right. With the dollar so low, too, it's still cheap in pound terms. Look it up on Google if you don't believe me.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Relations Officer

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

    Guru Careers: Executive Assistant / PA

    £30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable